Tuesday 16 September 2008

The Lollipop Shoes and the nature of evil

I’ve just finished reading Joanne Harris’ new novel The Lollipop Shoes, the long awaited sequel to the excellent Chocolat. I’ve enjoyed all her books, with her sensual style evoking worlds which are truly compelling. It has often been observed that the book Chocolat was more spiritually alert than the film – with the character of the priest becoming the mayor in the film, thus downplaying the great chocolaterie-church conflict in the run-up to Easter. In The Lollipop Shoes the spiritual battle continues, but with the church less obviously present. This time it is the run-up to Christmas, which is portrayed largely as a pagan festival. Once again Vianne is the agent of grace, the mother who seeks to protect her children yet also to give them freedom, the holy matriarch. The chocolaterie is once again the battle ground where good meets evil, as the magic of chocolat is wielded by both sides, with its power to both seduce and resist. What struck home to me was the seductive nature of evil; how easily we humans can be beguiled and flattered by the forces which seek to destroy us. The closing sentences of the book, spoken by the agent of destruction, sound a warning note: ‘Who am I now? Who could I be? I could be the next person you meet walking down the street. I could be standing behind you at the supermarket checkout. I could be your new best friend. I could be anyone. I could be you – I’m a free spirit, don’t forget – And I go wherever the wind takes me.’

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